|▲ Jeju Museum of Art Photo courtesy The Jeju Weekly
Jeju is welcoming its first ever biennale, a three-month-long arts festival, which will open on Sep. 2 and run until Dec. 3, 2017.
The theme of the inaugural event will be “Tourism”, which is a topic closely related to the lives of so many people living in Jeju.
So, what’s a biennale, and why should you care?
For those new to this Italian term, it means “every other year”, and specifically refers to large-scale international exhibitions of contemporary art held every two years. It originated from Venice, where the first Venice Biennale was held in 1895.
Biennales are usually named for their host city, and operate on a grand scale, gathering artists from around the world and presenting their work across multiple venues.
There are currently ten biennales in Korea, with Jeju Biennale being the newest player on the scene. We spoke to Director Gim Jun-gi of the Jeju Museum of Art (JMoA), to find out what differentiates Jeju Biennale from the hundreds of other biennales around the world.
Under the banner of ‘Social Art’, the Jeju Biennale aims to be closely connected to its host community. It “seeks to present an art scene where there is a close link with locality and contemporary issues rather than an intense discussion within the field of arts.”
While most biennales usually carry themes of global issues not related to their community, Jeju Biennale aims to be a local biennale that is “uniquely Jeju” while advocating the social responsibility of art.
“Tourism is a part of Jeju’s identity but it was not a common phenomenon until the 70s and 80s. Rapid progress in transportation led to the rise of tourism as an industry. We want to reflect on issues such as why we need tourism, how tourism affects our society, and what the future of tourism will be” says Director Gim.
The Jeju Biennale is going to be held at several locations, including the Jeju Museum of Art, Jeju Museum of Contemporary Art, Jeju City old town, Seogwipo City old town, and the Alddreu Airfield area.
The exhibition at Alddreu Airfield will be especially interesting due to the uniqueness of the location.
Alddreu Airfield was built in the 1920s by the Japanese during World War II. It was used as a base for the aerial bombing of cities in China, as well as for the training of Kamikaze (suicide mission) pilots, among other things. Since the 1960s, the land has mostly been converted to farm land and is currently being used as potato fields.
Artworks will be installed at the aircraft shelters, and it is a chance to revisit the site’s history. There are also plans to retain the art installations at the site even after the biennale ends in an effort to combine art and agriculture and raise the value of the historical site.
The Jeju Biennale will exhibit work from around 60 teams of artists from Jeju, Korea, and around the world. Furthermore, around 70% of the works on display will be shown for the first time at the Jeju Biennale. In terms of art, it is probably the most anticipated event on Jeju this year.
One of the highlights of the event is sure to be New York-based artist Marina Abramovic. If you don’t know her name, you have probably heard of her stories.
She is a performance artist who did a terrifying experiment in 1974 where she laid out 72 items on a table and invited the public to use them on her in any way they saw fit. Another of her performances was “The Artist is Present” in which she sat in a chair in the gallery and visitors streamed in to sit opposite her one by one.
Jeju Biennale is doing other special projects on top of showcasing works from artists around the world. Some people may have noticed that many of Jeju’s pine trees have been felled recently due to a bug that is spreading disease among the trees. Some of these fallen trees will find new life as art installations at the biennale.
Another special project will be a collection of Mt. Hallasan paintings from various artists. According to Director Gim, this is a special point of Jeju Biennale as most biennales rarely include landscape paintings. Mt. Hallasan, being a symbol of Jeju and, of course, the center of Jeju’s existence, is definitely one of the “uniquely Jeju” elements that is being incorporated into the exhibition.
Aside from artworks, there will also be many concurrent art tours, lectures, academic conferences, and programs.
Among them is a special project called “Tamna Talks” which are fortnightly roundtable talks that aim to “systematically present the issues Jeju will need to solve and to select the theme that future Jeju Biennales will discuss.”
These talks are open to the public. A variety of issues closely related to the local society will be discussed, and they will be collected and archived for future use.
Director Gim of JMoA hopes that this will be a good opportunity to expose the Jeju local community to international art trends and to go on to raise Jeju’s status as an island of art and culture.
Whether you are an art lover or just looking for something to do in the later part of the year, exploring the island and the biennale will be quite a unique adventure.
For more details, please check out the Jeju Biennale homepage at http://www.jejubiennale.com/en_index.php